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The Americans’ Holly Taylor on Paige’s Church Problem, High-Waisted Cords, and Her One Tree Hill Obsession

Holly Taylor of The Americans. Photo: Getty Images

Paige just wants to go to church. Why can’t she go to church?! Well, because her parents are undercover KGB spies, and Mother Russia isn’t down with the big JC. In last night’s episode of The Americans, poor Paige got read the riot act for donating $600 worth of babysitting savings to charity. Color her confused. (And has there been anything more terrifying than Philip screaming at his teenage daughter? I think not.) Vulture got ahold of Holly Taylor, the 16-year-old actress who plays Paige, to commiserate after a long day of exams (“I had four tests, and it was awesome,” she jokes). Fortunately, our discussion got worked its way around to One Tree Hill, and that perked her right up.

What was it like having Matthew Rhys scream at you?
It was pretty scary. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are such good actors, so obviously it felt very real, and in that scene, Phil is fuming. He’s so angry. And Paige is really vulnerable and confused. She thinks she’s doing something good. I mean, she’s going to church and reading the Bible and donating to charity. She doesn’t get what’s wrong with it. And of course, you don’t do just one take.

How many times did he yell all in all?
Oh, gosh. That’s a good question. A lot. More times than I can count. Between takes, he was like [trying for a Welsh accent], “Oh, I’m so sorry, Hollister. You know I don’t mean it.” Sorry, that was bad. My mom is always on set with me because she’s my guardian, and she was like, “How dare you be rude to my daughter!” She was joking of course, but it made it a little lighter for all of us.

Have you ever been told off like that?
[Laughs] One time! My mom was at work and my phone stopped working. I tried emailing her from my computer, but she wasn’t getting them, and she was calling like crazy. She thought someone was killing me. She came home, and yeah, it was bad. But at least I was doing something wrong — not, like, going to church.

What do you think about all the trouble Paige’s churchgoing has caused?
I was shocked. Paige has this rebellious streak, and based on last season, I was expecting her to start sneaking out of her house at night or doing something like that. I was scared, actually. Like, What are they going to make me do? And I get one of the first scripts back, and it says, Paige sneaks away: She’s at a church meeting with her friends. What? I thought it was funny, but also really, really smart and unexpected.

Do you watch the show?
Yes, I do. I have to leave the room occasionally, but I do watch.

Do you have a favorite disguise?
I like Phil with the ponytail, and I like when Keri’s playing Clark’s sister. Both of those are funny. I don’t get to do scenes with them when they’re in disguise, so when I watch the episodes and I see them in these crazy wigs and Matthew all of a sudden has a ponytail, it’s like, What?

You were not alive during the ’80s! How do you like Paige’s wardrobe?
If I wore it now to school, I think I would get some weird looks. Jenny, our head of wardrobe, does a great job picking things that aren’t too wild. Even though that was the style back then, we’re not wearing bright, crazy colors or anything too drastic that’s distracting. But — the high-waisted pants. Those are definitely not my favorite. Between those and the turtlenecks, I can’t breathe sometimes. Especially since the pants are corduroy. I wear jeggings every day so I can move around, and when I put on those corduroys, it’s just cruel.

What have you had the most fun doing on the show?
I live-tweeted one of the episodes this season, and I’m going to be doing it again this week. I’m really excited for it, because more people talked to me than I expected. It’s cool to see everyone questioning what’s going to happen. Or when they go, I’m so scared! Or the one question I always get asked, no matter where I am, is “What’s it like to work with Keri?”

Have you seen Felicity?
I haven’t seen Felicity yet, which I’m kind of upset about. But I have worn the Felicity wig we have in the trailer, so that has to count for something.

Are you scared for Paige? What will happen if she does find out her parents are Russian spies?
I’d like her to find out, because I think the longer she goes without knowing, the worse it will be. But Paige has proved herself to be really strong, and she tries her best to be independent like Elizabeth — even if she hasn’t made all the best choices, like when she went hitchhiking and her little brother had to save her.

That was pretty bad!
Yeah, but she learns from it. She’s really curious, as we’ve seen, and I think she will find out eventually. But I have no idea how she’ll react.

You finished filming this season awhile ago and are back in school. Do anything fun for spring break last week?
Well, I went D.C. because there is an Americans exhibit at the International Spy Museum. They had some of the disguises and props and spy tools they use, so that was very cool to see. What else did I do? Oh yeah, I went to the FX upfronts.

So basically you were working on your spring break.
Just for two days. And it was fun. They did the upfronts at a bowling alley. And they had food. I like food. Really good pizza, chicken nuggets — oooh, and they had fried mac ’n’ cheese! That was my favorite.

What are you doing while you’re not cramming for tests?
I’m watching One Tree Hill right now. I’m on season three, and last night I watched episode nine. I cried a little. It was really sad. I love it so much. It’s such a good show.

Remind me what happens in that episode. Why is it sad?
Well, I meant I cried happy tears. Dan Scott gets elected mayor — that was the sad part — and Nathan is upset about it, and his mom leaves because we find out she’s the one who tried to kill Dan in the fire. So then Nathan is all by himself, and he calls Haley, but he’s still mad at her because she left to go on tour with Chris. But Haley tries to make it up to him by going to his house, and she’s like, “I’ll always be there for you,” and she sees he still has the necklace that their wedding rings are still on, and it’s so cute! And then Brooke goes to Lucas’s house and brings him all of the 84 letters she wrote to him over the summer, and then he takes her back and goes, “Brooke Davis, I’m the guy for you.” It’s just so many emotions. I can’t even deal with it.

You’re watching it all for the first time?
Lots of people are watching it right now, especially in my school. Everyone’s been talking about it. All the girls are addicted. I’m usually not into these kind of shows, but I had to check it out, and I watched the first episode and thought, Great. Now I’m going to be addicted. Not what I needed, but it happened, and I can’t take it back.

The Americans’ Holly Taylor on Paige’s Problems